This Article is part of the Lost Canadians special report See the full report

Daughter of Canadian father and war bride, resident in nation for 62-years, but still not "Canadian"

“Bastard,” she says.

Denise Tessier, 64, a retired BC Rail administrator living in Quesnel, B.C., makes a sound that could be mistaken for a sob. It’s a laugh.

“My sister and I were born out of wedlock and for lack of a better word we were—we are—little bastards,” she says.

The stigma, shame and social scorn have been dulled, but the definition of bastard and the circumstances of her birth mean Tessier is not a Canadian citizen. 

Tessier has lived in Canada since she was two months old; since she traveled to Montreal at the end of Second World War with her older sister and war bride mother to be reunited with her Canadian father and meet his francophone family. But in 2006 when Tessier was 60 years old, she learned that Canada did not recognize her as a citizen because she was born to an unmarried Canadian father and a non-Canadian mother prior to 1947.

“I’ve been voting, paying taxes for years as other Canadians do,” she said, noting she has since been stripped of the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. “I am not eligible to vote because I am still considered a British citizen.”

Although there were no barriers to Britons emigrating throughout the Commonwealth, Tessier’s British-Canadian birthright amounted to a birth stain. Already illegitimate in birth, she suddenly learned she was illegitimate in citizenship too.

“I no longer took part in Canada Day celebrations. When I see a Canadian flag, it has a different significance for me,” Tessier wrote in an email. “Now it represents rejection and betrayal.”

All of the details of her birth—date, place, marriage status of her parents—are essential to the reasons she is not a Canadian citizen today and won’t become one without a special ministerial grant or by applying for immigrant status like all other ‘new’ migrants to Canada.

Tessier doesn’t want to accept either. Instead, she thinks the law should change.

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